As Westminster halted the Scottish Parliament’s plans for gender self-identification, opponents of the bill recalled an icon of their movement who inspired thousands of women to stand up.
Magdalen Berns was a co-founder of For Women Scotland, the group that led a judicial review attempt to challenge Nicola Sturgeon’s gender recognition reform bill and protested for days outside Holyrood as the bill was debated. .
She was also a influential youtuberwhose ‘incisive’ logic and deadpan delivery earned her enemies from the trans lobby and admirers from feminists and gay rights groups.
Berns died of glioblastoma in September 2019 at age 36, but her words and videos are still quoted by activists including JK Rowling, who has paid tribute to her as an “immensely brave young feminist and lesbian”. in his 2020 Twitter essay.
Magdalen Berns, who died in 2019 at the age of 36, was a co-founder of For Women Scotland and an influential YouTuber who inspired thousands of women’s and gay rights activists with her videos.
Supporters of For Women Scotland and the Scottish Feminist Network take part in a demonstration outside the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.
One of Berns’ best-known lines, “It’s not hate to tell the truth,” has become widely shared. Another joke, “I’d rather be rude than a liar,” also emerged as a rallying cry, according to Berns’s friend and fellow activist Venice Allan.
“I was a member of Momentum and a patron of Jeremy Corbyn,” Ms Allan said. ‘I watched the Magdalen videos and they struck a chord with me. Here was someone saying what I was thinking before I found the words.
In her videos, Berns would pick apart the claims of gender ideologues whose views she disagreed with, insisting on one: “There’s no such thing as a lesbian with a penis.”
“Trying to shame lesbians for being lesbian is inherently homophobic and misogynistic.”
Elsewhere, he might show a human side, imploring an opponent: ‘It’s okay to be uncomfortable with masculinity. Do you think I’m comfortable with femininity? Your personality does not make you a woman.
Nicole Jones (dressed as a suffragette) joined dozens of people who protested outside the Scottish Parliament building on Wednesday.
Speaking outside Holyrood after a three-day rally with For Women Scotland, Berns was remembered by her partner Nicole Jones.
Ms Jones said: ‘Magdalen would have been disappointed (by the Scottish Parliament’s vote), though not surprising.
“She was a deeply kind person, full of compassion, and she cared about the rights of women and people with disabilities long before this gender debate arose.
“Time to plan our next move, and of course we wish she was here to help us.”
Born in London, Berns spent her early years protesting against animal testing and fur, handing out leaflets for the Socialist Labor Party, while her mother, Deborah Lavin, was one of the founders of Britain’s Communist Party.
After working as a sound engineer in North London clubs, Berns moved to Edinburgh in the mid-2010s, where she studied physics.
Protesters display a banner in the public gallery of the Scottish Parliament.
It was in 2015, while in college, that Berns began filming his videos, targeting Stonewall and a host of new vloggers.whose statements he considered a threat to the rights of lesbians and women.
“There was definitely a change in the air,” said Marion Calder, who later co-founded For Women Scotland with Berns. “Until that time, there was almost a gentleman’s agreement between feminists and transgender people, those who had made the medical transition and had the support of a doctor.
‘This new generation of trans activists came to our door saying “we are women, for all intents and purposes” with no medical or social transition.
“There were other women who spoke out about it, but Magdalen was way ahead of the curve in her use of video.”
According to Berns’ friend Robbie Travers, at the time a university student in Edinburgh, the shift in transgender policy was accompanied by belligerent activism on campus.
He said: ‘I couldn’t believe my ears. There were male students who called themselves lesbians and said that women who didn’t have sex with men were “f*** scum” and should be “annihilated.”
“I sat there, thinking this was beyond satire, but it was real.
‘Magdalen was investigated by the Students’ Union and was repeatedly dragged into interviews. They were fishing for an offense. They asked me what her views were, if she had become radicalized.
It seemed to me that it was his opinions that were on trial. She was a committed left-wing feminist, but she became disillusioned with the modern left.
In her videos, Berns regularly debunked the claims of gender ideologues whose views she disagreed with, insisting to one: “There’s no such thing as a lesbian with a penis.”
Berns’s critics often cite a June 2018 tweet that refers to trans women as “fucking blackface actresses” with “kinks” and who “have sexual fun being treated like women” as evidence of transphobia.
Berns later deleted the notorious tweet, which was made during an online dispute. But according to those who knew her, while she may have regretted her choice of words, she did not regret her point of view.
In a video on the subject, activist Maria MacLachlan said: “I’m not going to defend the language Magdalen uses here, she was harsh and maybe that’s why she had to delete the tweet.”
“But let’s not get sanctimonious about Magdalen’s angry expression… When you apparently think it’s okay for men to ignore women’s feelings, dignity, and privacy based on some subjective feeling they claim to have, and without However you are trying to paint Magdalen as the villain here.
“While some men who identify as trans are obviously sexually motivated and some are quite ill, not all are by any means, and actually Magdalen knew that.”
Protesters are seen during a candlelight vigil for what they believe is a loss of women’s rights in Scotland.
WHAT JK ROWLING WROTE ABOUT MAGDALEN BERNS
In her June 2020 essay, Rowling wrote: “When I first became interested in gender identity and transgender issues, I began to screenshot comments that interested me, as a way of reminding myself of what I might want to investigate further.” forward”.
‘On one occasion, I absently ‘liked’ instead of taking a screenshot. That single “like” was considered evidence of bad thinking and started a persistent low level of bullying.
‘Months later, I compounded my accidental crime of ‘likes’ by following Magdalen Berns on Twitter. Magdalen was an immensely brave young feminist and lesbian who was dying of an aggressive brain tumor. I followed her because I wanted to contact her directly, which I did.
“However, as Magdalen was a great believer in the importance of biological sex and did not believe that lesbians should be called bigots for not dating trans women with penises, points were joined on the heads of trans activists on Twitter and the level of social media abuse increased.’
For those around her, the experience of being kicked out of half a dozen student groups had the effect of galvanizing Berns’ activism, and she continued to make her YouTube videos with renewed vigor.
Berns was the first to interview Wiltshire mother of four, Kellie-Jay Keen, later going by the nickname Posie Parker, after she was questioned by police about complaints of tweets by Susie Green, former chief executive of the Mermaids trans children’s charity.
She also participated in demonstrations and gained quick recognition among women’s rights advocates around the world.
In 2018, Berns co-founded For Women Scotland with Nicole Jones, Trina Brudge, Susan Smith and Marion Calder.
Ms. Calder recalled their first meeting years earlier: “I had just watched her videos and was hoping this 6’5 horsewoman would come in.”
‘But this tiny woman came, people don’t realize how tiny she was. Her personality was huge, she had the courage of a 6’5 horsewoman.’
Unfortunately, Berns’ involvement with For Women Scotland was hampered when her health began to fail. She was diagnosed with terminal glioblastoma in the summer of 2019.
“It’s hard to be told you have something that can’t be cured, but I’m not going to let that define me,” Berns is reported to have said, putting on a stoic front.
After moving into a workhouse in Edinburgh, Berns was told that JK Rowling was following her on Twitter and had made contact. According to Ms. Calder, Berns’s reaction was simply, ‘that’s great.’
“Magdalen wasn’t someone who was impressed by celebrities, but even she knew she would have an impact,” Calder added.